OLYMPIA FIELDS | Homewood-Flossmoor's Christian Hoover may have let his competitors set the pace Saturday at Rich Central’s Jimmy Daniels Invitational, but he knew when to turn things up a notch.
On a day that saw area runners take four of the top five finishes, it was Hoover who held off Mount Carmel’s Dan O’Keefe in a sprint to the finish to capture his first win at the varsity level in the boys race.
“I let the guys from Mount Carmel and Marian Catholic (Camren Howard) set the pace early,” Hoover said. “After the first 800, I took the lead and just focused on keeping the pace until I came around the final turn, then I just took off.”
Hoover and O’Keefe made the turn onto the final stretch battling shoulder to shoulder, but the Vikings runner had just a little more in the tank and pulled away in the final 100 meters.
“He ran a great race (Saturday), I was right there but he just pulled away at the end” O’Keefe said. “It still feels great to come out and get second in a field of over 160 runners.”
The other big story of the day on the boy’s side was the performance the Thornwood duo of Matthew King and Khalil Lightbourne, who took fifth and 10th, respectively.
“Khalil is a great story; he qualified for state last year but he’s been hurt all season so to come out (Saturday) in his first race and get 10th is impressive,” Thornwood coach Brian Evans said. “He wasn’t far off his time here from last year so we have 30 days now to get him ready for the Sectional Series.”
“Matthew’s a kid who was in the 18-minute range last year and (Saturday) he comes out and gets a top five. He’s got a real shot at going to state this year, and that would be a heck of a Cinderella story."
On the girls side, Thornwood’s Deandra Stokes led the way for area runners by finishing seventh.
“I didn’t really know what cross country was until this year,” she said. “I run middle distance in track and thought this would be a good way to get 500 miles in during the offseason.”
Her track background paid off for Stokes, who passed Marist’s Catherine Viz and pulled away down the stretch to secure her place.
“I run the 400, 800, and the 1600 meters in track and really just started doing this to get in shape,” Stokes said. “But now that I’ve put the time, I’m really excited to compete in every meet and have some strong finishes.”